Saturday, September 12, 2015

Which Running Shoes Did Western States 100 Participants Rock?

Every year the epic Western States 100 race surveys participants.  The full survey is here. Altra Running sent along a link to the survey, as well they should, as while in 2014 they barely registered, this year they were the 3d most popular brand (16.5%) for all finishers and 2nd most popular brand (16.7%) for those finishing under 24 hours. Super cushioned Hoka One One was most popular in both categories with 34.5% and 34.7% of participants.

Read on to see why I think these 2 brands were on so many feet...
Why one might ask do these 2 "smaller" brands dominate this important trail race.
  • First, while I have not run the terrain it is not very technical. The terrain favors these lighter, highly cushioned shoes and may disfavor very minimal, heavier or firmer shoes such as Salomon's (on less than 10% of the finishers.)
  • Secondly both of these brands first made their name in the Western US, location of the race.
  • Thirdly, both of these brands are comfortable!
Altra Running
In particular Altra's Foot Shaped toe box is ideal for long hours of running on moderately technical terrain.  I suspect many Altra runners were on the Lone Peak followed by the lighter more minimal Superior and road Paradigm.

I am very much enjoying the cushioning, decent stability, comfort, foot shaped toe box.and light weight of the Lone Peak 2.5. I have run both Utah smooth single track and New Hampshire rooty rocky terrain in the Lone Peak. Lone Peak is 10.1 oz Men's 9  with a 20mm heel, 20mm forefoot. Retail $120

Lone Peak is particularly fun and effective on steeper uphills and downhills, the zero drop, wide platform, decent lugs and rock protection makes the ride stable and in tune with terrain and clearly has made me more confident. a big plus for this timid downhiller. As a heel striker getting to my mid foot without some assist of the higher heel on flats and roads is a bit of a struggle. Interestingly, I don't "miss the heel" on steeper trails.  I am still not convinced that Zero Drop (heel and toe of the shoe are the same height)  is for me on flats and roads.  Trails and steeps I like what I feel!

When starting to run in Altra Zero Drop after more conventional higher drop shoes a careful slow transition to Altra's lower heel is essential. In my case, especially if running Altra on the road or flatter terrain. Why? Our muscles and tendons need to get used to the more natural geometry of zero drop after years in "high heels", generally 10mm or more higher heel than forefoot for traditional running shoes. As I tend to run in shoes with between 4mm and 8mm drop, the transition has not been a big issue but I have been cautious none the less.
Only knock so far for Lone Peak 2.5 a tongue which tends to rotate to the outside slightly effecting the heel upper stability, too slippery and soft? Otherwise Lone Peak is an outstanding blend of comfortable roominess and sure footed trail feel for smooth and moderately technical trails. Likely, as a result, why they are on many of those Western States feet!
Altra Lone Peak 2.5

Altra Lone Peak 2.5

Altra Lone Peak 2.5
Hoka One One
The  incredible cushioning of all Hokas and in particular the cushioning to weight ratio of Hokas such as the Challenger ATR, which I suspect was on many of the Hoka runners, puts less weight on feet that have to be moved thousands of times, a big plus for a 100 mile race. Other Hokas likely on Western States runners, the Mafate Speed and Stinson ATR heavier even more massively cushioned Hokas. I have run many miles in the Challenger and while it not as roomy up front as the Lone Peak it is very easy on the legs for long miles. While not quite as stable a platform as the Lone Peak, for all but the most technical terrain it is delightfully light and fast. My review of the Hoka Challenger, my 2014 Trail Shoe of the Year , here.

The Altra Lone Peak was provided to me free of charge. The Hoka Challenger ATR was a personal purchase at retail. The opinions herein are entirely my own. RoadTrailRun is an affiliate of Altra Running and Running Warehouse and receives a commission on sales through the links below.

Challenger ATR is available from Running Warehouse Men's here, Women's here

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